Friday, the 27th of August was a red-letter day for many though not all Kenyans. In the most impressive show of might and the costliest celebration since Independence Day in December 1963, the new national constitution was promulgated. The event was somewhat blighted, when Sudan’s president, Al-Bashir, one of ICC’s most wanted men, showed up, having sneaked in through Nairobi’s second airport, Wilson, at the invitation of some of the ruling Coalition, but not others. President Obama went hot and cold: hot at the dawning of Kenya’s “new era” with its liberal constitution opening the way, as many insightful critics see it, for gay unions and unbridled pornography, and cold with Bashir’s brazenness and nose-thumbing. As a signatory of the ICC, Kenya should have handed over Bashir not welcomed him with open arms.
The same day, 27th, was the closing day of a one-week conference in Entebbe, Uganda’s old capital on the shoes of Lake Victoria, attended by 400 bishops of the Anglican Church throughout Africa, the Indian Ocean, Singapore and south-east Asia. The Anglican primate, Rowan Williams, was present, which brought the issues of homosexuals, and women prelates, to the fore, ahead of a host of social problems ailing Africa. Archbishop Williams was under courteous and brotherly but persistent attack from the other delegates for his “gay” stand. Uganda’s Anglican head, Archbishop Luke Orombi, compared Williams’s situation to the father of a house with stubborn kids (gays) who would not allow him to sit down peacefully and eat. “Homosexuality is evil, abnormal and unnatural, as per the Bible,” he said, “It is a culturally unacceptable practice, and although there is a lot of pressure, we cannot turn our hands to support it.”
The Nigerian Anglican archbishop said it was a matter of which takes precedence – an alien culture or biblical teachings? The provincial head of the church in the Indian Ocean said they could not afford to keep lurching from one crisis to the next; action has been taken to irrevocably shatter the Anglican Communion –which will have financial implications for the church in developing countries; and its existing structures have been unable to address the need for discipline. The provincial heads said they were under attack by an imposed interpretation of Scripture and a foreign culture that has hindered the growth of an authentic church which could respond to the people. At the opening session, the Ugandan Prime Minister, Apollo Nsibambi, echoed the same sentiments, to a standing ovation and the discomfort of Archbishop Williams and his aides.
Meanwhile, two days later in a published interview (Sunday Vision), the Ugandan Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Dr Nsaba Buturo, said his ministry is drafting a more specific bill to outlaw pornography. The new law will “heavily punish the architects and supporters of pornography”, which he blamed for increased cases of adultery, fornication, witchcraft, and other evils that affect families, educational institutions, stoked by the media houses that provide it, and which will need to tow the line. Buturo’s crusading zeal reflects the same spirit as David Bahati’s anti-gay Bill, and is equally likely to bring down the ire of liberals everywhere.
While Kenya, or a minority of more vocal “libertarians” there, seems to be pulling in one direction, to the delight of many of similar ideas worldwide–one newspaper referred to Kenya as now joining the “superior democracies”- , more traditional and culturally aware Uganda wants to make sure it not only holds on to what it has, but consolidates it in law: an encouragement for those, the silent majority everywhere, who fear that this battle is already lost.
Martyn Drakard is Spero's correspondent in Africa.